Social Responsibility in the Forest Products Industry

I have written in another blog post about the ORI website’s case study on authorship and intellectual property, this post will discuss an article I found about social responsibility within the forest products industry. The article is entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility in Forestry” and was authored by Panwar and Hansen (2008).

The article defines corporate social responsibility as the idea that a business has a responsibility to give back and improve society. The authors then argue that the level of social responsibility expected of a business depends on a country’s standard of living and level of economic development. For example, they state that “Societal expectations of business responsibilities broaden as a society passes through the phases of economic development.” The authors also argue that larger businesses are more likely to be involved in social responsibility than small businesses because of the costs involved in social responsibility efforts.

The authors build upon their argument by saying that the scope of what is part of social responsibility can be different between developed and developing countries. In developing countries without strong safety and labor laws, the authors state that social responsibility may include safety regulations and child labor laws. In contrast, in more developed countries social responsibility may focus more on environmental issues.

In order to make social responsibility effective for the forest products industry and also address a specific area’s needs, the authors suggest that businesses use an “issues management” approach. This involves “interviewing key stakeholders to identify issues that they consider important and worthy of managerial attention.” The second step of this approach is to then ask a focus group of “neutral and informed participants answer questions and give controlled feedback … to refine the list of issues generated via interviews.” Applied to the forest products industry, the authors list the following social and environmental issues:

Social issues
• Encourage public scrutiny of environmental and land management practices
• Invest in surrounding communities
• Promote responsible consumption among consumers
• Stem declining employment in the sector
• Engage with surrounding communities
• Improve industry’s public image

Environmental issues
• Promote sustainable forestry practices
• Increase the use of renewable resources
• Adopt environmentally sound purchasing policies
• Mitigate global warming
• Reduce overall energy consumption
• Improve waste management

 This article was interesting to me because it demonstrated how the concept of social responsibility can be adapted to meet the needs of specific industries. For the forest products industry this means meeting local needs related to both social and environmental issues. It is also interesting and important to consider how the forest industry will have to meet different needs across different parts of the world.

 Source:

Panwar, R., & Hansen, E. (2008). Corporate social responsibility in forestry. Unasylva230(59), 45-48.

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